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322,502-acre Dixie Fire burns through historic California mining town

A Cal Fire helicopter makes a retardant drop on the Dixie fire above the Plumas National Forest in Plumas and Butte counties on Wednesday. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI
A Cal Fire helicopter makes a retardant drop on the Dixie fire above the Plumas National Forest in Plumas and Butte counties on Wednesday. Photo by Peter DaSilva/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The Dixie Fire burned through the historic mining town of Greenville, Calif., on Thursday, destroying multiple structures in the downtown area.

The fire ballooned to 322,502 acres overnight at 35% containment, according to the U.S. Forest Service, making it the largest active fire in California and the sixth-largest in the state's history.

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"Yesterday we saw extreme fire growth," said Mitch Matlow, a representative with the multiagency team managing the fire. "The fire was averaging about a half-mile an hour."

The blaze leveled much of downtown Greenville and scorched surrounding homes, SFGate reported.

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Wildlife photographer Stuart Palley wrote on social media that the fire burned so hot it melted street lamp posts and left little in the downtown area intact.

"All I see standing on the main street is a Dollar General," he said. "My heart is broken for this beautiful little town."

U.S. Rep Doug LaMalfa, a Republican representing California's 1st District which includes the area, addressed the damage in a Facebook video.

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"We lost Greenville tonight," he said. "There's just no words."

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The Plumas County Sheriff's Office issued an evacuation order for the Greenville area Wednesday afternoon, urging residents to make their way south.

"If you are still in the Greenville area, you are in imminent danger and you must leave now!" the sheriff's office wrote.

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The areas of Chester, Lake Almanor Peninsula and Hamilton Branch were also ordered to evacuate Thursday.

A total of 4,785 fire personnel have been deployed to combat the Dixie Fire, which was sparked July 13 and is expected to be contained by next week.

On Thursday, firefighters said extreme fire behavior was expected with a Red Flag Warning in effect through 8 p.m. as hot, dry temperatures, low relative humidity and wind gusts of up to 30 mph to 35 mph were expected.

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